I’m 58 years old, and I thought I understood what terms like racism, white supremacy, white privilege and bigotry meant. I also thought none of those terms applied to me. Growing up on the south side of Indianapolis, I didn’t encounter many people of color in my community. In fact, at that time, there were only two black families who attended the public schools I did. My parents taught me to love my neighbor as myself, but I was learning that there was an asterisk next to the word “neighbor.”
Never was a derogatory word or phrase used by my parents regarding people of color. In fact, mom would cringe when she heard them said by others, and told me to never say them; they were racist and wrong. And I didn’t, and neither did my friends. But examples of white supremacy were all around me just the same. At my school, in my neighborhood, at the pool we belonged to, and even in my home.
My parents often warned me of neighborhoods not to go to when I got my driver’s license, and instructed me on how to carry my purse securely when I went to a neighborhood that was deemed “rougher.” My parents didn’t say why, or what exactly they were worried about. It was unspoken. But I knew what they meant. I had seen my mom clutch her purse more tightly to her when a black person would get on the same elevator we were on. I’d heard her tell dad to “let’s hurry up before it gets dark” when we went downtown for any reason. Yes, love my *neighbor. Unspoken racism, clearly demonstrated to my young, impressionable self.
To be honest, I actually think I took St. Peter’s first Anti-Racism 101 class because I wanted validation that I wasn’t racist, but might learn how to help others with their racist views. Or at least have a better understanding of why and how this country is so divided. And while I DID learn those things, and more, I also discovered that the racist views I need to work on are my own. That as a white woman, I live and love and work in this world from a position of privilege. Soooo much privilege.
I plan on continuing with the Anti-Racism series, because the other important thing I am learning is that this is a work in progress. This will take time, patience, honesty (as painful as it is sometimes), and a continued willingness to step out of my comfort zone. To see more clearly the pain that systemic racism causes, understand my part in it, and help stop it. Just as my walk of faith is a journey, this work is too. And I have so much yet to learn.
Patti Peck, Jan. 25, 2021